The Medical College of Virginia has, over the past century, transformed Richmond’s Court End neighborhood. Originally a high class collection of antebellum town homes, each added building has increased the scale and intensity of the area which is now totally dominated by the hospital. MCV’s new James W. and Frances C. McGothlin Medical Education Center is no exception to this rule.
Replacing the 7 story A.D. Williams clinic, the little brother of the neighboring art deco West Hospital, the 12 story McGothlin Building pairs with the remaining tower beautifully. The contrast between the heavily textured brick of the old West Hospital and the glassy weightlessness of its new companion is lovely, a model for other projects in Richmond.
New York based architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed designed the McGothlin Medical Education Center which should surprise no one. The angularity of the project and the clean lines drawn from sidewalk to the top of the facade recall the firms past works, particularly those of renowned partner I. M. Pei. Traces of the National Gallery East Wing and the JFK Presidential Library are obvious in the building’s massing. The McGothlin building’s detailing is immaculate. It’s sober street presence is by no means vibrant, but its entrances are inviting. In a nod to the A.D. Williams Clinic’s architectural significance, its original entrances have been preserved and presented as sculpture in front of the McGothlin building’s Marshal Street facade.
Upon passing through the main entrance, one is met with a pleasing light washed two story lobby. The gentle creams and grays and subtle interior and exterior wall textures result in an ambience appropriate for a medical building, sterile yet comforting. Again, the legacy of the Williams Clinic is acknowledged by the preservation and display of a large WPA era mural in the lobby. The views from the upper floors are excellent, the massive planes of glass that make up the sheer curtain wall obstruct nothing.
Both a contributor to the neighborhood and to the vital functions of the city’s largest hospital, the McGothlin Medical Education Center is an outstanding addition to Court End and to Richmond on the whole.